It is only logical to say that life was utterly different for the pioneer lady in comparison to the comfortable setup for her city counterpart. The lady who took her husband's hand and followed him into the unsettled West was quite brave and courageous. Although she may have supported her husband in the move she was often terrified for his and her family's lives. Life in the West was not extravagant and, oftentimes, lonely. A Pioneer lady spent her days working hard on the prairie, making a fine home to raise good children which spoke to the great legacy she left behind. All of her devotion was to God and family. However isolated she was, she did find socialization with other women at quilting parties and at church.
Women had many children to help with chores to maintain the household. Most of her children, especially the girls, were illiterate. It wasn't until the middle 1800's that school became an option for her children. Her children learned skills and hands on training around the farm or on the prairie. The Bible was the authority taught in the home. That obligation was shared by both parents. Some men left the spiritual education up to their wives. Unfortunately, some pioneer women could not read. Her most important knowledge was the skills of running a large household and farm, sewing, crocheting, mending, darning, cooking and raising small children.
Fashion, of course, was different than in the city. Settlements in the West was often in rugged untamed territories which saw very little transport of expensive materials. No, gone were the pioneer lady's days of silk dresses and bustles. Those she left behind in the city. Now, her dresses were made from cotton and shortened a bit in length due to all the dirt and mud. However, she did spruce up for parties by adding ruffles to her dresses. Any fabric left over, no matter how small, she collected for a later time to make quilts with other pioneer ladies.
Some women grew tired of running a household in the unsettled West and chose to set out on their own to run a ranch. But most pioneer ladies stuck by their husbands and families keeping loyal to their beliefs and traditions watching their families grow as a tribute to her legacy.
Pioneer Family Clothing
* Women left their nice clothes back home in the city when they left with their husbands
to brave the prairie.
* Because of mud and dirt the dresses were made a little shorter in length.
* The dresses were made of cotton instead of fancy materials.
* Most young girls in pioneer families had two dresses for work and play; and had one
* An apron was worn over the dress to keep it from getting dirty or torn. It was easier
to wash the apron than to wash the dress again and again.
* Most women and young girls wore a bonnet outside to protect their heads and neck from the
hot sun and wind since they were involved in a lot of farm work.
* At least one petticoat was worn under the dress. More petticoats were worn if the lady
lived in a cold place.
* Women added ruffles to plain dresses to add flare when attending church gatherings and
* Girls' aprons were made from scrap material from their mothers' dresses.
* Fabrics used to make these clothes were as follows: muslin, wool,and cotton.
Clothes: Men and Boys
* Men and Boys wore cotton or wool trousers.
* Jeans were also worn. Jeans are known to have been invented in the United States about
1850. Some say Levi Strauss invented the jean material. But there has been documentation that jeans could have been worn much earlier, especially for mining, farming and factory work.
* Some boys wore cotton or wool breeches. For pioneer boys breeches were worn 4 or 5 inches loosely below the knee. This information I gathered from studying photos of pioneer boys clothing.
* Men and boys alike wore suspenders to hold there pants up.
* Most every man wore a hat.
* Some men wore wool vests with their coats.
* Men and Boys wore leather boots.
Unfortunately, men, women and children had very little time to concern themselves with there clothing while on the trails heading west in America during the 1800's. Children did not always wear shoes or socks. Hair was unkept. Clothing wrinkled and unclean. However; when they finally settled down mothers were able to give their attention to such matters. She repaired shoes, mended their socks, dyed their clothing, and patched holes in their pants. Sewing was the most skilled craft a young girl or a woman had knowledge of. So these clothes were mended over and over again because the common pioneer family did not have access to clothing and materials like their counterparts in cities. So what material they did get they made use of it sparingly. Scraps were collected and later used for quilts which became a pastime for women.